Every winter, the waters off of Baja California and Mexico’s Pacific Coast put on a show. The region is the prime winter migration grounds for some of the world’s most majestic whale species – including humpbacks, California grey whales, and massive blue whales.
In other words, if you’re planning a Mexico yacht charter to warm up this winter, whale watching should absolutely be on your itinerary.
From La Paz and Los Cabos, to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico offers some of the most exciting whale watching grounds in the world. Looking for some ideas of where to go and what to expect? Here are some tips on the best places, times and areas to see whales in Mexico.
Where to Go: Whale Watching Regions in Mexico
The warm waters along Mexico’s western coast welcomes whales each winter. Typically, the season is fairly short, lasting from December to April. But all along the coast, you’ll see a variety of species, as well as whale sharks and dolphins. In general, you’ll find great whale watching opportunities in three general regions:
- Pacific Coast – Whales migrate as far south as Oaxaca, a Mexican state known for its ancient ruins. Yet, you’ll find whales all along the southwestern coasts, including in areas like Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlán.
- Baja California – The Pacific Coast of Baja California, especially the southern portions, is world-renowned for its whale watching. The lagoons and bays of the southwestern coast are rife with grey whales, blue whales and humpbacks during the winter. Areas like San Ignacio Lagoon and Magdalena Bay beckon tourists every winter.
- Sea of Cortez – Also known as the Gulf of California, the waters between Baja and mainland Mexico offer some of the best opportunities to see blue whales, whale sharks and humpbacks. In particular, Loreto Bay – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and the areas around resort towns like La Paz and Los Cabos are some of the best places to go.
What to See on a Mexico Whale Watching Trip
The best thing about whale watching in Mexico: You can expect to see a variety of marine wildlife. You might spend the morning tracking blue whales the size of super yachts, and the afternoon watching humpbacks breach. The main species include:
- California Grey Whales – Once endangered, conservation efforts have led to a surge in grey whale populations. Today, this is the most abundant species you can expect to see on Baja California whale watching tours. Giant greys can often be found minutes off the coast, as they head to protected bays to give birth from December to April.
- Humpback Whales – Humpbacks tend to like the nutrient-rich waters at the tip of Baja California near Cabos, where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific. Humpbacks are well-known for putting on a show: Breaching the water and crashing back down.
- Blue Whales – Blue whales spend just a short time in the area – February to March each year – but seeing these giants up-close is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Blue whales are known for being elusive, yet, in the Sea of Cortez, especially around Loreto Bay, they can be found in winter.
- Whale Sharks – Although technically not a whale, the whale shark is a massive shark species that’s found in the Sea of Cortez throughout the fall and winter. Whale shark season typically lasts a bit longer, from October to April, and they’re found all over the region, particularly around La Paz.
Best Places for Whale Watching in Mexico
All of the best whale watching sites in Mexico are located in some of the best cruising grounds. In other words, you can spend the day whale watching, before exploring the resorts, spas and cantinas by night. You’ll find some of the best sighting opportunities in:
- Bay of Magdalena – This is hands-down one of the best sites for seeing grey whales. In fact, the Magdalena greys are known for being curious. They’ll come right up to the boat to investigate. Typically, you don’t have to travel far to see them. Grey whales hang right off the coast, and you’re bound to see at least a several during a trip in peak season.
- El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve – Between the northern and southern portions of Baja California, you’ll find the El Vizcaino Whale Sanctuary. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the sanctuary is home to more than 2,500 grey whales during the winter season. The place is great for seeing greys, but it’s also perfect for exploring the landscape, with islands, beaches and lagoons nearby to discover.
- Los Cabos – Los Cabos is a prime habitat for the filter-feeder species like humpbacks, blue whales and whale sharks. As it’s right at the entrance to the Sea of Cortez, many species pass by when migrating to the nutrient-rich waters of the gulf. This is a great jumping off point for a Mexico whale watching trip.
- Bay of Loreto National Park – Loreto Bay and its UNESCO-designated marine park is a key habitat for blue whales. The bay – located north of Los Cabos in the Sea of Cortez – has several islands to explore, where many blue whales congregate.
- La Paz – The resort community of La Paz sits right on the Sea of Cortez, and as such, it’s a natural destination for several different species. Here, you’ll find whale sharks, blue whales and humpbacks. In particular, the area called El Mogote is well-known for its whale sharks.
- Mazatlan – Located on the mainland just south of the Sea of Cortez, Mazatlan is a favorite destination for marine wildlife viewing trips. Species like sea lions, dolphins and humpbacks are found in abundance here, as well as the occasional orca.
- Bahia de Banderas – Further south, you’ll find this beautiful bay located near Puerto Vallarta. In fact, from the beaches, you may be able to see humpbacks breaching all winter long.